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Christ Lutheran Church of the Deaf
Silver Spring, Maryland
The Lord's Supper Series Index

#1.  What is the Lord's Supper?
Three Conflicting Views
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The Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 55:8-11
The LORD says, "My thoughts are not like your thoughts.
    Your ways are not like my ways.
Just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Rain and snow fall from the sky
    and don't return without watering the ground.
They cause the plants to sprout and grow,
    making seeds for the farmer
    and bread for the people.
The same thing is true of the words I speak.
    They will not return to me empty.
They make the things happen that I want to happen,
    and they succeed in doing what I send them to do."  (New Century Version)

The Epistle Lesson: 1 Corinthians 10:14-21
    So, my dear friends, run away from the worship of idols.  I am speaking to you as to intelligent people; judge for yourselves what I say. We give thanks for the cup of blessing, which is a sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread that we break is a sharing in the body of Christ.  Because there is one loaf of bread, we who are many are one body, because we all share that one loaf.
    Think about the Israelites: Do not those who eat the sacrifices share in the altar?  I do not mean that the food sacrificed to an idol is important. I do not mean that an idol is anything at all.  But I say that what is sacrificed to idols is offered to demons, not to God. And I do not want you to share anything with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons also. You cannot share in the Lord's table and the table of demons.  Are we trying to make the Lord jealous? We are not stronger than he is, are we?

The Gospel Lesson: Mark 14:12-17, 22-26
    It was now the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread when the Passover lamb was sacrificed. Jesus' followers said to him, "Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover meal?"
    Jesus sent two of his followers and said to them, "Go into the city and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him.  When he goes into a house, tell the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says: Where is my guest room in which I can eat the Passover meal with my followers?'  The owner will show you a large room upstairs that is furnished and ready. Prepare the food for us there."
    So the followers left and went into the city. Everything happened as Jesus had said, so they prepared the Passover meal.
    In the evening, Jesus went to that house with the twelve...
    While they were eating, Jesus took some bread and thanked God for it and broke it. Then he gave it to his followers and said, "Take it; this is my body."
    Then Jesus took a cup and thanked God for it and gave it to the followers, and they all drank from the cup.
    Then Jesus said, "This is my blood which is the new agreement that God makes with his people. This blood is poured out for many.      I tell you the truth, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine again until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."
    After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.



In our last lesson we introduced our study in the second sacrament -- the Lord's Supper -- in which we saw that it has its roots in the first Passover, just like our first sacrament -- Baptism.

The annual Passover celebration helps Jewish people to never forget what God did to save them.  So also, the Lord's Supper helps us to never forget what God has done to save us.

Now we begin our deeper study into what the Lord's Supper is and what it means.



THE LORD'S SUPPER HAS VARIOUS NAMES:

THE LORD'S SUPPER
This name reminds us of our Lord's "Last Supper" when He established this sacrament the night before His crucifixion.

HOLY COMMUNION
"Communion" is a Latin word that means "fellowship."  This name emphasizes our fellowship with Christ and our fellowship with each other in the Lord's Supper.  (We will study more about this in our next lesson.) 

THE EUCHARIST
"Eucharist" is a Greek word that means "give thanks."  This name for the Lord's Supper comes from Jesus' thanksgiving prayer when He first established the Lord's Supper.

Jesus took some bread and thanked God for it and broke it. Then he gave it to his followers and said, "Take it; this is my body."  Then Jesus took a cup and thanked God for it and gave it to the followers.. Jesus said, "This is my blood..."  (Mark 14:22-24)

What did Jesus say during His thanksgiving prayer?  The Bible doesn't tell us, but every good orthodox Jew knows the prayer by heart:
"Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe
    who brings forth bread from the earth."
"Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe
    who created the fruit of the vine."

THE BREAKING OF BREAD
"Break bread" is a popular phrase which simply means eat a meal with friends.  But when we refer to THE Breaking of Bread, it means the Lord's Supper.
"The bread that we break is a sharing in the body of Christ." (1 Cor 10:16)

THE LORD'S TABLE
Paul refers to the Lord's Supper as "the Lord's Table" in today's epistle lesson.

This name reminds us of the table at which Jesus ate His last Passover with His disciples, where He established this sacrament
(see Matt. 26:20Mark 14:18, Luke 22:14).

This name also reminds of the future banquet table that is symbolic of heaven:

Jesus said, "Just as my Father has given me a kingdom, I also give you a kingdom so you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom."  (Luke 22:29-30)

THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR
This is the name that Martin Luther liked to use when he spoke about the Lord's Supper. (We looked at the meaning of the word "sacrament" in our study about baptism.  We will examine this again in a later lesson about the Lord's Supper.)



WHAT IS THE LORD'S SUPPER?
Here is how Martin Luther answered that question in his Small Catechism:

It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.



THREE VIEWS OF THE LORD'S SUPPER
Among Christians there are three conflicting views of the Lord's Supper:

(1) The bread and wine are NOT Christ's body and blood.  They only SYMBOLIZE Christ's body and blood.

This is the view held by most Protestant churches. 
(Baptist, Presbyterian, Reformed, Methodist, Assembly of God, etc.)

However, there are serious problems with this doctrine.

First, this doctrine rejects Jesus' words when He gave us the Lord's Supper.
He said:  "This is my body... This is my blood"

When reformers Huldrych Zwingli and Martin Luther met to discuss their common understanding of the Bible's teachings, they found that they vigorously disagreed about the Lord's Supper.

Zwingli taught that the bread and wine were not the true body and blood of Christ.
He taught that when we eat and drink the Lord's Supper, our mouths receive only bread and wine, not Christ's body and blood.

Zwingli believed that the bread and wine only symbolized the body and blood of Christ.

Why did Zwingli reject Jesus' clear words?   Zwingli said that because Jesus ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, it was impossible for His body and blood simultaneously be with us in the Lord's Supper.

Martin Luther simply pointed Zwingli back to Jesus words, "This is my body... This is my blood."   When 
Zwingli tried to argue that Jesus didn't really mean what He said, Luther replied, "IS is IS and always is IS."

The Apostle Paul also emphasized that the body and blood of Christ are truly present in the Lord's Supper:

We give thanks for the cup of blessing, which is a sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread that we break is a sharing in the body of Christ. (1 Cor 10:16)

A person who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in a way that is not worthy of it will be guilty of sinning against the body and the blood of the Lord... All who eat the bread and drink the cup without recognizing the body eat and drink judgment against themselves. (1 Cor 11:27-29)

It is for that reason this we need to ask the question -- What is the Lord's Supper -- and to study the Bible for God's answer.


The second view of the Lord's Supper is the exact opposite of the first:
 
(2) The bread and wine CHANGE, becoming the body and blood of Christ, and they are no longer bread and wine.  The body and blood of Jesus only look and taste like bread and wine.

This view is called TRANSUBSTANTIATION.  It is taught by the Roman Catholic Church.

The chief problem with this doctrine is that it contradicts the Apostle's clear teaching that in the Lord's Supper we still receive bread and wine:

We give thanks for the cup of blessing, which is a sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread that we break is a sharing in the body of Christ. (1 Cor. 10:16)

Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup you are telling others about the Lord's death until he comes.  So a person who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in a way that is not worthy of it will be guilty of sinning against the body and the blood of the Lord.  Look into your own hearts before you eat the bread and drink the cup, because all who eat the bread and drink the cup without recognizing the body eat and drink judgment against themselves.  (1 Cor. 11:26-29)


...which leads us to the third view of the Lord's Supper:

(3) We receive the true body and blood of Christ WITH the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper.

We call this the REAL PRESENCE of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord's Supper, which the Bible clearly teaches. 

Some old Lutheran theologians liked to describe the union of bread and wine with the body and blood of Christ this way:  "We receive the body and blood of Christ in, with, and under the bread and wine."



We can summarize the three views of the Lord's Supper in the following chart:


has
Bread & Wine
has the Body
& Blood of Christ
as the Bible
teaches
(1) Symbolismyesnono
(2) Transubstantiationnoyesno
(3) Real Presenceyesyesyes


Before we move on to the next topic, we need to look more deeply at #2 -- 
Christians who teach transubstantiation tend to fall into four pits which abuse the Lord's Supper:

(a)They have various rituals and celebrations which adore (worship) the bread in the sacrament, which they call Corpus Christi (Latin for "body of Christ").   In some communities they have an annual parade in which they carry around the bread in a decorated box, treating it like an idol.

The Scripture is very clear in its instruction about what we should do with the Lord's Supper:  EAT and DRINK.  Period!  Not worship it.  Not bow to it.  Not parade it around.
 
(b)They teach that every time they celebrate the Lord's Supper, Christ becomes crucified in an "unbloody sacrifice"  again... and again... and again...

But what does the Bible say?

Christ did not offer himself many times...  But Christ came only once and for all time at just the right time to take away all sin by sacrificing himself.   Just as everyone must die once and be judged, so Christ was offered as a sacrifice one time to take away the sins of many people.  And he will come a second time, not to offer himself for sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:25-28)
 
(c)As a result of this doctrine of the recurring "unbloody sacrifice," they have a common practice of "offering the Mass on behalf of..." someone else or some special need. 

This notion is completely contrary to the Christ's clearly stated purposes of the Lord's Supper:  
        "...for you."
(Luke 22:19 & 20)
        "...for the forgiveness of sins." 
(Matt 26:28)
        "Do this to remember Me."
(Luke 22:19)

Christ gave us the Lord's Supper to strengthen our faith in His gift of salvation, offering us comfort in His forgiveness when we feel burdened by the guilt of our sins.  We must be careful not to treat the Lord's Supper like an occult ritual which releases supernatural powers.
 
(d)Many of their church members have been taught since youth that "all Catholics who have reached the age of reason and are not prevented by sickness or other sufficient cause, are obliged to attend Mass," and that it is a sin to deliberately miss the Mass.  This gift which our Lord has given to give comfort in His forgiveness has become a burden which inflicts guilt!  



WHEN DOES THE BREAD AND WINE BECOME CHRIST'S BODY AND BLOOD?

When the pastor says the words of institution?    ...No.

When the pastor makes the sign of the cross over the bread and wine?  ...No.

Our bread and wine became Christ's body and blood when Jesus said it 2000 years ago during His Last Supper with His 12 Disciples.  (This does not make sense to our limited minds.  But remember that Christ is eternal.  He is not limited by our perspective of time.)

The pastor does not make the Lord's Supper happen.  Christ does it.
The pastor's words only announce what Christ has already done.

Christ does the miracle.
The pastor is only the messenger.



WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE LORD'S SUPPER?

Jesus said: "...for the forgiveness of your sins." 
Comfort in God's grace.

Remember the Calvary connection. 
    ...to help us never forget the price that Christ paid for our salvation.




*Notes

==============
John 6:25-58
Often those who teach about the Lord's Supper quote John 6:25-58, in which Jesus called Himself "the Bread of Life," and then went on to say:

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.  My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them.  The living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father. So whoever eats me will live because of me.

This certainly does sound like the Lord's Supper, doesn't it?  However, if Jesus really was talking about the Lord's Supper in John 6, then verse 53 contradicts everything that the Bible teaches about God's grace and our salvation:

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, you must eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood. Otherwise, you won’t have real life in you."

If Jesus was referring to the Lord's Supper, then verse 53 means that we cannot be saved without receiving the Lord's Supper, and that eating the Lord's Supper is a requirement for receiving forgiveness of our sins.  We know that is absolutely false. 

Verse 53 makes it clear that Jesus was simply saying that He alone is our source of eternal life.